Questions for “This ancient reptile’s last meal may have truly been a killer”

ichthyosaur fossil

A bulge in the belly of a fossilized ichthyosaur (pictured) contains the remains of a reptile called a thalattosaur. That prey was nearly as long as the ichthyosaur itself. Such a big meal may have killed the predator, scientists say.

Ryosuke Motani

To accompany “This ancient reptile’s last meal may have truly been a killer”


Before Reading:

1. What is a dinosaur and in what environments did they live?

2. Name at least three huge, ancient predatory reptiles.

During Reading:

1.  What are three traits of an ichthyosaur?

2.  How did Ryosuke Motani figure out what the last meal was for the ichthyosaur he was studying? What had it eaten and what was so unusual about its prey?

3.  What type of teeth did the ichthyosaur have, and why did that make its last meal a surprise for the researchers?

4.  How much of that prey did the ichthyosaur eat?

5.  Why do the researchers think the ichthyosaur hunted its prey?

6.  How did the predator die and why do the researchers suspect its last meal contributed to its death?

After Reading:

1.  Were either the ichthyosaur or the thalattosaur a dinosaur? (If in doubt, consult “The real sea monsters“.)

2.  Name at least five other predators that eat prey nearly as big, or bigger, than they are. What tends to be their style of acquiring these meals? In each case, discuss how the ichthyosaur’s style was similar to — or quite unlike — theirs.